On the one hand, changing your thinking is pretty easy. You just make a choice. When you encounter a stressful situation, you choose to think “it’s all going to work out” instead of “#@$% why does this always happen to me!!” It is a simple choice, however as you begin to observe your thoughts and change your thinking, you might find that you are met with some internal resistance. There will be part of you that rebels against “it’s all going to work out” and desperately wants to go to the “@#$%!” place. You might even feel it physically. You might feel panicky, or ill, or just not right when you attempt to shift your thinking like this. This is because you are, in a certain way, addicted to your current way of thinking. The reason it takes time and effort to change thinking is because your neurons have specific relationships with one another and with certain brain chemicals. If your knee jerk reaction to stress is anger (“$#@&*”), or self-pity (“poor me”), or self-depreciation (“stupid me”), it is because your body and your brain have become accustomed to, or addicted to, the neuropeptides which are associated with those emotions. Overcoming that addiction is like overcoming any addiction. On the surface it seems easy, you just choose something different. You choose to stop drinking. However as any recovered addict will tell you, it is also not that easy. Now, I do not want you to go away believing this is hard, because it is easy once you recognize what you are dealing with. Just like a drug addict will recognize the withdraw symptoms, and will stay the course in spite of them if they are determined, so you can recognize the symptoms of your own withdraw from patterned thinking and choose to stay the course in spite of them (and they are not nearly as bad as drug withdraw. If people can give up a drug addiction, you can certainly change your thinking. If you’ve given up an addition you may even have an advantage here, since this is immeasurably easier). Recognize the resistance for what it is, a withdraw, and just tell yourself “this is the withdraw, and I’m OK with that.” Then keep thinking your new thought. Eventually, the new thinking patterns will become your norm. When this happens, you will begin to see things shifting all around you. You will begin to experience synchronistic events, even miracles. You will begin to realize that you do indeed have a real power within you. You are no longer at the mercy of patterned, unconscious thought. You instead are consciously choosing how to think and how to respond to any given situation instead of being at the mercy of your own unconscious wiring. You will be free from thought addiction, and it is well worth the discomfort of your temporary withdraw.
To illustrate this a bit further, here is an entertaining clip from the movie “What the Bleep Do We Know?” about the nature of addiction to thought and emotion.
Finding inner peace, enlightenment, or the Eden within, does not mean you will never have a bad day again. One of the wonderful things about finding the flow in your life however, is that when you do have a bad day, the universe has a way of sending messages to help you through. This can manifest in a person showing up at the right time, a song on the radio that speaks to your problem, stumbling across a blog post or video that gives you the right kind of guidance at the right time. The trick is staying present enough during your bad days to recognize these miracles. Remaining present during a bad day means that you acknowledge what is going on in the moment and be present with it, in a state of non-resistance. Allow it to be. Step back and observe your thoughts about the moment, without judgment. Breath through it. Notice that you – the essential you – has not been destroyed by the negativity. When you do this, you may find the ‘bad stuff’ in the moment will have less power over you, and you will be able to remain open for guidance. This does not mean you will magically be ‘happy’ in the midst of a bad day. It does mean that it will not consume you. Here is a wonderful video from Teal Scott on this topic.
What is this Ego which creates the illusion of separateness? Ego is multi-faceted, which makes it tricky to define. Eckart Tolle defines the Ego simply as an identification with the mind. I agree, but also I think this is just one aspect of the Ego. The identification with thought and with the mind is indeed the root of suffering. The mind always exists in the past, and can only predict future events based on past experiences. Identification with the mind keeps you stuck in loops, in cycles of self-destruction, in circular thinking. Releasing your identification with the mind is key in the process of enlightenment. The essential self (also referred to as the ‘higher self’), is the part of you that sees life from the highest perspective, is connected to the unified whole essence of creation, can see the biggest picture and knows without needing the mind. This is what one should be identified with, not the mind. The mind should just be a tool, for the role of the mind should be exclusively to receive information from this essential self. Instead most of us have put the mind in the driver’s seat and thus we repeat the past over and over because that is all the mind can do. The essential self only exists in the now moment, not in the past or future. What you call your ‘intuition’ is a direct link to this essential self. When you have had moments of just ‘knowing’ something, without interference from the logical mind, at that moment you are connecting with your essential self and bypassing the logical mind. The key is to do this more often than not, to be connected to that knowing which is beyond the realm of mind and does not need the past to make decisions in the now. Everything we associate with clairvoyance stems from being in this state, and all humans are capable of it.
Thus, ego is in one sense this identification with the mind. This is why the quickest way to enlightenment is to stop thinking. When you stop thought, your pure, essential self can be expressed. Most of us think that we are our thoughts. We subscribe to the philosophy “I think, therefore I am.” This is not the case. Thought is what gets in the way of who you are. Thought is what creates the illusion in the first place. Thought creates the idea of “you” which is separate from “me” and separate from the rest of the universe. When you get outside of thought, you are the universe. Thus, Tolle is not wrong, however there is another aspect to Ego which should also be acknowledged. Ego is also that which allows you to perceive yourself as a separate being. Without ego, we would be one unified wholeness, as we were in the beginning. For some, that is the goal. But there is a way in which the wholeness also longs for separateness, since it is only in being separate that we can share in love. It is only in separateness that we can experience the divine lover / beloved relationship. This is Ego’s gift. This is the aspect of Ego which can be maintained even when identification with mind is gone and connection with the essential self is achieved. As long as you are in a human body, you can never fully let go of this aspect of the Ego, except perhaps in moments, but this does not mean that enlightenment cannot be obtained, it is just the opposite. You can be fully aware of your essential self and how it is connected to the unified whole, and yet maintain a separate identity which allows you to continue to be human and to share in love. This is a beautiful state of being. As my Sufi teacher Alim Thompson once explained to me, the goal is not to get rid of the Ego, the goal is to tame the ego. I began to think of the ego as a horse. It can be a bucking bronco, completely in control of you and tossing you around in life. This is the scenario of being totally identified with the mind and unaware of your essential self. The goal is to take the bucking bronco and turn it into a well trained thoroughbred, one which willingly follows your direction out of love and respect for you. Riding such a thoroughbred through life will be exhilarating and fun.
Here is a video from Bashar lays out the role of the essential, or higher, self more clearly than anything else I’ve come across: